Tag Archive: Leon Botstein

The Bard Summer Music Festival 2012: Saint-Saëns and his World

See also: “Orientalism in France: Leon Botstein and the ASO play Saint-Saëns, Franck, Ravel, Delage, and Bizet’s one-act opera, Djamileh at Carnegie Hall” Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is, like his friend Franz Liszt, an exemplary subject for the Bard Summer Music…
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Orientalism in France: Leon Botstein and the ASO play Saint-Saëns, Franck, Ravel, Delage, and Bizet’s one-act opera, Djamileh at Carnegie Hall

In a happy coincidence this delightful evening of French orientalist music occurred just as I was coming to the end of Ralph P. Locke’s stimulating book, Musical Exoticism, Images and Reflections (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Without repeating much that I’ll say in my review, I think I should say here that reading it most definitely added to my enjoyment of the concert, and that is serious praise for a book about music. Professor Locke goaded me into looking at the rhetoric of exoticism as a multifaceted historical phenomenon, which carried as many different connotations for the members of Bizet’s or Ravel’s own audiences as they do for us. This is not by any means the thesis of the book, but it is a salutary corollary lesson. Ultimately, however, neither that, nor Leon Botstein’s witty, balanced, and impressively perceptive pre-concert lecture, nor his and Jann Pasler’s excellent essays can quite put us back into those audiences’ top hat, tails, and spats. Perhaps champagne is in order. What was most palpably present in Carnegie Hall that night was some supremely imaginative and enjoyable music, much of it more substantial than one might have expected.

Sibelius II: Larry Wallach on the Bard Music Festival 2011 – Jean Sibelius and his World

Originality is a hard concept to get a hold of — there is no yardstick for measuring it, by its very nature. This makes the evaluation of composers, the assessment of their influence and historical position, one of the most subjective areas of music history and criticism. Contemporary writers have become impatient with their predecessors’ habit of rating composers in terms of “importance” or “greatness” based, at least in part, on their originality. And then there is the issue of “unique voice” — is that the same as originality? Is their any good composer who lacks either one? Can “uniqueness” be evaluated?

Sibelius I: Bard Music Festival 2011 – Jean Sibelius and his World

One shouldn’t let anything get in the way of a Bard Music Festival—and the surrounding Summerscape opera, play, and dance performances, etc., least of all one’s preconceptions about composers. In one case only, Prokofiev (Bard Festival 2008), I approached the Festival with thoughts of taking a mildly rebarbative medicine, but I soon learned how wrong I was, thanks to the Russophile enthusiasm of my friend, Robert Kurilla, who has written about Prokofiev in the Review, and, of course, the lectures and programs of the Festival itself. In Prokofiev’s case the problem was that his best known works give an extremely limited, really inaccurate, idea of him and that his best work is little-known and rather challenging.

Golden Bough: Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae

In my preview of this opera, I maintained that Die Liebe der Danae (more properly, Danaë, emphasizing the “ahh-aay” of the last two vowels), is a rarely performed treasure from the last years of Richard Strauss. Based on Maestro Botstein’s wonderful recording a decade ago, I wondered whether an actual stage production could do justice to the music. Joseph Gregor’s libretto seemed wayward to me, so that seemed the biggest obstacle for a felicitous live production. In fact, this new production at Bard’s Summerscape, directed by Kevin Newbury, lived up to, and exceeded all my expectations. Musically, it turns out as one of Strauss’s most attractive works; and the libretto, while quirky and vapid at times, inspired a humorous, imaginative and completely enchanting production.

Bard Music Festival 2011, “Sibelius and His World” – Program Details (REVISED, with a Note on the Composer)

The announcement of the upcoming Bard Music Festival, “Sibelius and his World,” begins with a note of controversy. Not everyone, especially from the 1930’s on, agreed that he wrote good music. This may surprise some people, since the debate had…
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